Santa Anita Handicap's focus squarely on McKinzie, Gift Box

Mike Willman, Santa Anita
April 03, 2019 06:51pm

Two of the top older horses on the West Coast, John Sadler’s Gift Box and Bob Baffert’s McKinzie, head a field of six 4-year-olds and up in Saturday's 82nd running of the Grade 1, $600,000 Santa Anita Handicap. Originally run in 1934, the Big ’Cap, America’s longest continually run “hundred grander,” will again be contested at a mile and one quarter.

Idle since winning the San Antonio Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita on Dec. 26, 6-year-old Gift Box appears to be at the top of his game and although he was well beaten in his only other try at 1 ¼ miles at age 3, gives every indication he should relish the distance at this stage of his career.


Beaten a half length by former Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile Champ Battle of Midway as the 1-2 favorite in the San Pasqual Stakes (G2) over a sloppy track on Feb. 2, 4-year-old McKinzie has trained extremely well for the Big ’Cap, which will also be his second try at 10 furlongs. 


Owner: Hronis Racing, LLC                                                         
Trainer: John Sadler  

Originally headquartered with trainer Chad Brown in New York, this 6-year-old Kentucky-bred horse by Twirling Candy made his first start for Sadler in the San Antonio and was dismissed at odds of 6-1. With the San Antonio counting as his first graded stakes win, Gift Box is now 14: 4-5-2 overall. Although he was fourth, beaten 18 ¾ lengths by superstar Arrogate in the 2016 Travers Stakes going this distance, Gift Box appears primed for a huge effort and will no doubt be head and head with McKinzie in the battle of the tote.



Owner: Karl Watson, Mike Pegram and Paul Weitman                         
Trainer: Bob Baffert  

A smashing 4 ¾-length winner of the Malibu Stakes (G1) here on Dec. 26, this ultra-talented colt by Street Sense was out-run late by Battle of Midway in the San Pasqual, but has trained in sensational fashion for Baffert since. A two-time Grade 1 winner and four-time graded stakes winner, McKinzie simply did not fire when distanced in his only other try at a mile and one quarter in the Breeders’ Cup Classic three starts back at Churchill Downs on Nov. 3. The leading money earner in the field with $1,126,000, he has an overall mark of 8: 5-2-0 and will likely be the post time favorite on Saturday.
Race 10 of 11 Approximate post time 7:30 p.m. ET

1. McKinzie—Mike Smith—123
2. Mongolian Groom—Geovanni Franco—114
3. Prime Attraction—Kent Desormeaux—116
4. Gift Box—Joel Rosario—122
5 Prince of Arabia—Joe Talamo—114
6. Campaign—Rafael Bejarano--115 


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